Good afternoon all!
So it's the new year and one of my resolutions was to go out and see more movies in the theater. We're on Day 2 of 2016 and I've been to two movies already. A good start.
I'm not going to bore you with a review of Star Wars. You're going to go see it either because you love Star Wars or because everyone else on the planet is going and you're going to enjoy it because it's a movie built to be enjoyed by everyone. Instead, I'm going to write a review of a movie whose release was limited to very specific theaters across the US, but is genius on several levels: The Hateful 8.
Let me first say I'm not a Quentin Tarantino fan. I'm telling you this so that you know I'm not writing a litany for worship at Tarantino's feet. I didn't like "Pulp Fiction" much and word that there's a third "Kill Bill" doesn't make me giggle with glee. I did enjoy "Django Unchained" and "Inglorious Basterds" is one of my favorite films. So I am reviewing "8" with a completely balanced eye, and I'm moved to write this review because I'm a writer and frankly when I see great writing in any form I need to give it a cheer.
Set almost completely in a snowbound cabin in Wyoming, "8" has the feel of a stage play. The movie is dialogue heavy. We learn nearly everything we need to know about the characters through what they say more than how they look or what they do. Costuming is simple: heavy, brown, filthy, lumpy coats and boots all around, so in the staging Tarantino has leveled the field. Everyone pretty much looks alike. Everyone sounds similar, with the exception of a couple accents. But in words and phrases there's no telling the good guy from the bad guy simply by looking at them or hearing them speak. Nope, this is a movie where you actually have to LISTEN to what's being said and that's where the genius of the film comes in.
Tarantino wants to give us the old time feel of what going to the movies meant a couple generations ago, so he's filmed it in 70MM, which means all these fantastic digital screens can't handle it. Hence the limited release. Simply put: there aren't many theaters that even have the technology to run this film, which is actually a FILM. He didn't stop there, however. The movie is over three hours long. Yep. More than three hours. I have trouble sitting still that long. But Tarantino gives us something we haven't seen from a long movie in a long time: An intermission. We actually had time to get up, get another soda, use the facilities, whatever, for about fifteen minutes. It was perfect. And the fact that the movie clips along lightening fast didn't hurt either.
So what's it about? It's a Western...set in winter...with bounty hunters and prisoners, former Civil War officers from both sides, and unabashed racists all find themselves trapped in a single room. They are all taking shelter from a blizzard. Battle lines are drawn and redrawn as, through conversation, each character sees themselves allies and then enemies with every other character. The movie is hardly for the faint of heart, given Tarantino's love of shock language and graphic violence. In today's ultra sensitive society, there are those who are going to decry the treatment of Jennifer Jason Leigh (Daisy) who is punched and beaten and shot at pretty much the whole film. Let's all remember, folks, this is a story, it's fiction set in a time when the N word was part of every day speech and bounty hunters had the choice between "dead or alive." It's not like this is set in a grade school in Beverly Hills in 2016. Oh, and yeah, dear Daisy is as bad a bad guy as any of the others.
Tarantino's sense of humor is also prevalent. You're going to find yourself laughing out loud at some really dark moments, and that's okay. Samuel L. Jackson and Kurt Russell bounce off each other smoothly and it's great to see Bruce Dern in another film. The winner of most of the scenes, however is Walter Goggins, as the former Rebel soon to be sheriff, Chris.
It's a great cast doing excellent work in a very well written film. If you don't have the stomach for very strong language, graphic nudity (there are a few moments of really graphic nudity, but only a few) or violence, or if you're just going to gripe that some of the characters are racist while others are violent toward a woman, then don't go see this film. If you want to see one of today's top movie makers actually produce something that's both original and nostalgic while also being entertaining, then go ahead and see it and have fun.
Of course, you can always also just go see any one of the ten billion sequels or remakes Hollywood is puking out at an alarming rate. Sure, you won't see anything new, but at least your sensibilities won't be stirred up.
I'm giving this Five out of Five.
And speaking of movie reviews...
My very good friend, fellow author and movie lover, Linda Schmalz and I have released our first movie review book: Two Moms, Three Glasses of Wine, and a Movie. For our first edition, we chose to review our favorite 50 films each and then 25 movies we both love. You can get it in print or for the Kindle right now. Our hope is to turn this project into a long series because, what we've noticed, is that there just are not enough movie reviews written by women while they're drinking wine.